By Robert L. Buggs, Sr.
On or about the 8th of August 2022, the Gary NAACP Branch was contacted and requested to file a complaint against the Hobart, Indiana, Police Department. As the Legal Redress Investigator, I, Robert L. Buggs, received the call and provided the family with the forms necessary to begin an investigation.
I met with the mother of the victim, Belinda Thomas, who stated her son, Michael Myyeah Gould, had been shot at eight times by a white male neighbor, Joseph Nelson. I interviewed Michael Gould by phone.
Gould stated he was arguing with his girlfriend on the side of his house located in the 300 block of N. Cavender Street, Hobart, Indiana. It must be noted that only two Black families live in this all-white neighborhood. Gould stated that this white male, Joseph Nelson, left his garage located at 300 N. Guyer St., Hobart, Indiana, and approached Gould and asked him who was he talking to. An argument ensued and Nelson allegedly pulled a gun on Gould from the street.
Gould said he saw a red laser on his stomach and began to run as Nelson fired at him. Gould stated he was yelling for help, so he ran into his home and called the police, stating he had been shot at by his neighbor. The police dispatcher told him the police were outside waiting to talk to him.
He stated that when he exited his house, the police advised him to put his hands up and slowly back up to them. He followed their orders and was immediately handcuffed and subsequently taken to jail. Thomas stated when she arrived home there were five police cars present. She also stated she observed eight police evidence cones on the street by spent shell casings.
Thomas was not allowed to talk to her son who was in the squad car. A Hobart police officer asked her to sign a document giving them permission to search her house. When she refused, she was denied entry into her home because it was a “crime scene.” The officer told her he was going to get a judge to issue a search warrant.
The police obtained the search warrant at approximately 2 a.m. and never presented it to Ms. Thomas before searching her home. After about two hours of searching, the officers found nothing and upon exiting the house told Ms. Thomas they left the warrant on her kitchen table.
As a result, her family including her 6-, 8- and 10-year-old grandchildren had to sit on the ground from approximately 10 p.m. that night until 4:45 a.m. the next morning.
During the night they were not allowed to enter their home to use the bathroom. A neighbor said she provided blankets for warmth and a couple of chairs.
Meanwhile, Nelson, the shooter, was free to roam around at will.
After the white police officers returned to interview the neighbors they were told by the white neighbors that Gould was observed running and calling for help as Nelson was shooting at him. It was at this time that Nelson was arrested, taken to jail, and charged with criminal recklessness.
Joseph Nelson was allowed to bond out for $190.
I began the investigation by contacting the Hobart Police Department which refused to provide me with a copy of the probable cause and information documents. I then asked to meet with the Police Chief and was informed he was not going to meet with me.
The front desk clerk then contacted the detective on the case. The front desk clerk said, “I talked to the detective in internal affairs and he told me to tell you that they are not going to give you a copy of the information you requested. And, if you don’t like it, file a complaint.” The police department clerk gave me a complaint packet.
I promptly filed a complaint and a Freedom of Information Act request.
Several days later, I received a request from Thomas to come to their house to assist them in speaking with the police. The police had been nonresponsive (refusing to make a police report) to their complaints against Nelson who had been driving past their home shouting harassing remarks and making intimidating gestures at the family. Of course, Nelson did not drive by at that time.
This time when the office met with the family I gave him my card and advised the Hobart officer that the NAACP was gathering information to give to the FBI for a possible hate crime investigation.
Later that day, I received a phone call informing me the requested documents will be provided immediately. Included was the Hobart City Jail Arrest Record indicating Gould, who was unarmed, was charged with attempted murder.
A Black man running for his life while being shot at by a white man… was charged with attempted murder. Why?
Additionally, the probable cause document had three different accounts by police of their response to the calls and two different dates for the same incident.
As if that were not enough, a Hobart police officer told Thomas and her son not to go into their backyard or walk to the store because “Nelson was still upset and to stay inside their home for a couple of days so he could cool off.”
Thomas also stated when they moved in five years ago, she suspected Nelson broke into her house, defecated on her beds, busted holes in her walls, spray painted her walls with “go home niggas” and other expletives.
The homeowner’s estimate and repair costs exceeded $30,000.
I spoke with the Prosecutor about upgrading the charge against Nelson. The first court date for the Criminal Recklessness charge is October 7.
Hobart police did not pursue the attempted murder charge against Gould. They released him the next day.
Nelson continues to drive by Thomas’ house laughing and shouting “I got you motherfuckers.”
The Hobart Police continue to respond when Thomas calls about the intimidation, but they refuse to make a report.
The Hobart Police Chief refuses to meet with me as the NAACP Legal Redress Investigator after repeated requests, as does the Internal Affairs Department.
What Say You?
Robert L. Buggs Sr. is the Legal Redress Investigator for the Gary Branch NAACP.